RHS Gardens for the Future conference

Trees, water and a heartwarming dose of joy were the main topics of conversation at the RHS Gardens for the Future press conference this week.

Written by:

Hattie Ghaui

Published on:

October 31, 2023


Trees, water and a heartwarming dose of joy were the main topics of conversation at the RHS Gardens for the Future press conference this week.

The annual cycle of RHS Chelsea garden announcements, preparations and unveilings will never cease to amaze me. The sheer joy of working alongside some of the greatest horticultural talents in the business, partnered with the most fantastic charitable causes in the UK is what makes my role at PGB so varied and exciting. So it was with great anticipation that I headed to the RHS autumn press conference this week to see our 2024 gardens revealed to media and to chat to some of the people who will make their journey from paper to final destination – via a short stay in London SW3 – possible. 

This year’s RHS conference ‘Gardens for the Future’, which of course took place against the wider global backdrop of unimaginable conflict, pain and suffering associated with war and climate crises, provided much food for thought as well as a good dose of joy. International tree champion, Tony Kirkham MBE VMH, Met Office Senior Scientist, Dr Freya Garry, beloved plants-woman and broadcaster Carol Klein and self-confessed gourd-ophile Tom Allen all brought their respective subjects of trees, water and garden joy to life beautifully. 

I came away with a renewed respect for the woody beings we share our planet with and without whom no life would be possible. I now know that the UK’s native alder not only survives flooding, but thrives in flood plains, with roots that harden when standing in water. I understand that the choices I make about trees for my London ‘postage stamp sized’ garden should take a range of attributes into account – aesthetic and beneficial – and that pouring a good dose of love in with the biochar at planting stage will help them reach maturity – an essential element of tree establishment that we all need to adopt. 

I am inspired to look far more closely at the course water takes through and around my garden, investigating how I can slow its flow and prevent its too-quick escape into the mains sewage system. As Sheila Das, RHS Garden Manager, said, “There is no shortage of water; we have the same amount now as we always have done. It’s just increasingly in the wrong place and we, as gardeners, have the power to divert it for the benefit of the whole ecosystem.” A planted landscape is a resilient one and UK gardeners – all 27m of them – have the power to significantly mitigate water misuse, climate warming and soil degradation by planting a varied mix of native and non-native trees, shrubs and plants.

I was thrilled to learn that Harry Holding, a newly established garden designer who was supported by PGB in 2023 with an All About Plants garden for School Food Matters, is back at Chelsea in 2024 with the RHS ‘No Adults Allowed’ Garden, designed in collaboration with students from Sullivan Primary School in Fulham. What could be more joyous than seeing new talent we have supported continuing to inspire the next generation of gardeners, ecologists, biologists, engineers, architects and landscapers?

All the gardens being funded by PGB at RHS Chelsea 2024 are underpinned by sustainable horticultural choices, innovative construction techniques and materials and a pure love of plants in all their forms. But the future of our planet relies as much on careful investments and economic planning as it does on innovation and it will take bold financial decisions and generous donations to safeguard some of the increasingly precarious corners of our world. Collaboration is the key to all great partnerships of course and I was proud to stand alongside Clare Matterson, Director General of the RHS, Ed Workman, CEO of The Newt, the headline sponsor of RHS Chelsea, and Marit Mohn, founder of the Mohn Westlake Foundation, who will be funding the RHS education programme for the next three years. Together we hope to inspire more investment in this wonderful industry and in the incredible charitable causes who provide essential support and services to some of the most vulnerable in our societies. 

Find out more about the gardens for good causes being supported by PGB in 2024.

2024 Gardens

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